08 October 2014, The Tablet

Vicar of Baghdad leaves Iraq on advice of Welby

Canon Andrew White, the so-called “Vicar of Baghdad”, has left Iraq for the foreseeable future on the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury because of the escalating conflict with Islamic State jihadists.

Canon White, whose Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East is supporting Christians and other minorities displaced by the violence, told Premier Christian Radio from Jerusalem that if he had stayed he would have been risking his life.

“I’m not frightened of anything so I have to listen to people who are wiser and more sensible than me, like the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“He happens to be a very good and close friend of mine and he’s taking the right decision,” he said.

“There is no guarantee that I will be safe. There is no guarantee that Baghdad won’t fall. At the moment it is in the hands of the Iraqi Government but, if it did fall and I was there, I would fall as well – or my head would,” he added.

Canon White, vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, St George’s in Baghdad, added: “God often talks to us through other people and God is saying to me ‘get out you idiot’.”

However, he said he hoped to work in other parts of Iraq in due course.

In August a boy Canon White had baptised was chopped in half by Islamic State fighters during an attack on the Christian town of Qaraqosh. The boy’s parents had named him Andrew after him.

Lambeth Palace said it would not comment on the archbishop's personal conversations.

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